“Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Luke 9: 49-50 NIV
The other day I read an article from a church paper that was about “Church Security and Safety”. I am not going to list the article or the names of the church security companies that were listed in the article because I don’t want anyone to think that I am trashing these companies or their training techniques. Just like Christ says in Luke 9:50 “Do not stop him,” … “for whoever is not against you is for you.” Educating churches on the dangers of a fallen world is the importance of any article like this and it started off with the basic education of why churches need a security/safety team. The article interviewed someone from a security company that goes around training church volunteers on how to handle situations facing churches today. They went on to say that “If state law allows licensed gun owners to carry firearms on church property then the church should look into having an armed, trained security team. “In addition to armed personnel the church should have a team trained in hand-to hand combat, de-escalation techniques, the use of pepper spray and expandable batons.”
I am going to give you a second to re-read that last statement. Now let’s take the last part of that sentence apart. First, hand-to-hand combat. In our training we don’t recommend hand-to-hand combat training. Here is the reason. Unless a person frequently practices their hand-to-hand combat moves and in the mist of combat you have to think whether it is “wax on or wax off” you’ve already been “waxed”. I am not against martial arts, we have several members on our safety team that study martial arts and are very good at it. Almost all of them tell me it has to be second nature before hand-to-hand combat moves become instinctive and instantaneous. I watched an instructor give a 2-hour course to safety team members of a church on how to take a knife away from a person. Most of the team members were out of shape and over aged and all that did was give those safety team members a false sense of security that will only get them hurt unless they practice the moves. When I asked a friend who is a martial art expert what he would do if he was confronted with a person with a knife; his response was to shoot them. I believe if you can’t do what my friend said, you use whatever you have at your disposal; a chair, a Bible or anything you can get your hands on to get some distance away from that person until help arrives, not go hands on.
To me de-escalation techniques are the most important tool you can learn and use in a church environment. If you don’t believe me go out and read this article. One Sunday afternoon Pastor John Johnson III, with Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Bullard, TX, was confronted with a man wearing camouflage pants, a tactical vest, helmet with a pistol. The assailant stated that he was a “man of Islam” and instructed to “slay the infidels”, anyone that did not abide by the teachings of Islam. Pastor Johnson, who had worked in corrections, feared that a lot of people were going to get hurt unless he took matter into his own hands. Pastor Johnson asked the suspect to sit down and let him pray for him and get him a cool drink. Keeping calm, he was able to alert the others to get out of the church and call the police. Pastor Johnson was also able to get away from the suspect and later after the suspect was arrested the church found a note written by the suspect that stated, “This house is blessed by God”.
We are “church safety” and in a situation of a disruptive attending, taking someone to the mat is the last thing we want to do. People are broken and unless they are possessed, a calm head goes a long way. In fact, to use words from a popular 80’s movie, “All you have to do is follow three simple rules. One never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the “house of worship” (used my own words here) unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice”. Let me add one more thing to number three, who are you working for? You are working for the Lord Jesus Christ and not only should you be nice, you also have to be humble. Anger has no place here and when you get angry and lose your temper, you lose the fight.
The part of the statement I have the most problem with is, “the use of pepper spray and expandable batons”. I know the company in this article meant well but my question is, have they ever been in a room where pepper spray has been deployed? Most pepper sprays are an aerosol. Once deployed it spreads and do you know what pepper spray will do to an elderly person with respiratory issues? You’ve just released an irritant in the air that “causes non-lethal inflammation of all mucus membranes in the eyes, nose, mouth and lungs. Pepper spray causes eyes to slam shut from intense burning and temporary blindness. The effects will last from 30 minutes to 2 hours (1). The extendable baton is nothing more than (as Wikipedia puts it) a club carried for self-defense and when used properly is a great tool, as pepper spray is, for police officers and those trained in the use of said tools.
But if you want to quickly get on your local news, CNN or Fox News for the wrong reason use pepper spray or an extendable baton on a disruptive attendee that is refusing to leave your worship center. Most likely you will get the disruptive attendee to leave but if you use pepper spray, you will also have your elderly in your worship center calling out for medics because they can’t breathe or see. You will also clear out your church service. Nobody wants to see their elderly being rolled out on gurneys to the paramedic truck because of the deployment of the pepper spray. Nobody wants to see video that someone took with their phone of your safety team member using an extendable baton and then it shows up on YouTube. This is not going to be a good image for your church or your safety team and this all happened because you decided to use something other than verbal judo or the necessary force needed to remove the disruptive attendee. When it’s all over, you then have to worry about civil suits against your church because of the actions you took. Not to mention, striking someone with an extendable baton will get you arrested unless of course you live in Mississippi.
Think about it brothers and sisters, “be nice” and if that doesn’t work, it might require 10 members from your church to remove the disruptive attendee but no one gets hurt but maybe the disruptive attendee. Your church leaders will thank you for the way you handled the situation.
In the final paragraph of this article another church security consultant stated “for churches with an active shooter in their building is to go wild on this person… There has to be a group of men sitting strategically that are just going to go berserk and rise up against this person and go after him.” Going wild or berserk is not the way to go after an active shooter. In our church, safety team members with carry concealed permits, have other jobs on the team unless I have seen them shoot. Just like hand-to-hand combat, unless you go out and shoot and train at least twice a month or more you should never pull your weapon in a crowded church. And when we talk about training I am talking moving and shooting, not standing in a lane and shooting at paper targets. Doing training with a qualified firearms instructor that teaches you how to respond in stressful situations. It takes police officers years of practice to perfect shooting under stress and pressure. A little unknown statistic, 30% of shots fired by police officers actually hit their target. That is a mighty low percentage. What that means is if you get involved in a church shooting and your under high stress, the attacker is shooting back at you and you fire three rounds at the suspect. There is a high probability that at least two of those rounds are not going to hit the bad guy. In a full church where do those rounds go? Another church member gets hit or God forbid a child and you have to live with that the rest of your life. I see church after church only requiring their members to have a conceal weapons permit to carry. If you are the team leader on your safety team, it is your responsibility to make sure they can shoot before you recommend them carrying in your church.
Calm heads and hours of training are needed to learn how to assess and neutralize the threat in the most effective way and with the least collateral damage as possible. If the threat ends up becoming a gun battle you want calm, trained and godly men standing up for your congregation. Not someone that is happy to be on the safety team because he gets to carry a gun for the Lord going berserk on the active shooter. Having someone on the safety team pull a weapon that is untrained to neutralize a threat could get innocent people killed and destroy your church. We are called to protect the flock, connect people to Christ and if necessary give our lives for our calling. Besides to use another phrase in that popular 80’s movie “nobody ever wins in a fight”.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.